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Journey Hands-on Preview

3 August 2011

Being such a big fan of thatgamecompany’s previous titles – namely Flower and Flow - I couldn't wait to get my hands on Journey. Needless to say, my expectations were not let down after getting some hands-on time with the game during the recent beta session.

Journey starts off very simple. Your character, a robed girl, seemingly wakes up in the middle of a desert, and spots a mountain looming on the horizon, with what appears to be a beacon of light at its summit. Besides simple on screen control prompts however, I am given no information about my character, and no firm direction to take.

Using the left analog stick I guide the female protagonist up a sand dune, thus beginning my journey. As mentioned before, the game offers no instructions as to where I need to go, or what I should be doing. A short distance from me I see a number of what appear to be stone grave markers and a small ruined building. I make my way toward the ruins, and notice a glowing light; as I approach it, my character stops and is engulfed in the light, and a short scarf appears on her robe. Prompted by an on screen cue, I push X and my character glides into the air. By collecting small red pieces of floating cloth, I am able to recharge my scarf, enabling me to glide through the air once more. In addition, by collecting more shards of light hidden throughout the level, I am able to extend the length of my scarf, there in allowing me to jump higher, and glide farther.

The main character can also sing by having you press the circle button, the intensity of which is determined by how much pressure you apply. While just taping circle allows you to emit short note of music, holding it down allows you to charge the note, letting out a song burst that attracts any red cloth that might be floating in the vicinity.

While there is no story to Journey in the traditional sense, there are narrative elements to be found throughout the game. By solving the various puzzles scattered about the environment, I was able to unlock small cut scenes which, via the use of hieroglyphs, cryptically describe what I assume to be the history of the civilization that once occupied the ruins around me. Additionally, on completion of each level, a white robed figure appears that further reveals more history on the surrounding locations.

Playing co-op seems to be a matter of random encounters. There is no message notifying you that another player might be near, and instead you basically just run into other users on your travels. Likewise, there is no name attached to the other players you encounter, and with no voice or text chat, singing to each other becomes its own form of communication. For example, I used this ability to inform my companion that I wish to be followed, whereas by charging a note, we are able to recharge each other’s scarves. Overall, while I did not spend a great deal of time sharing my journey with other players, it was enough to give me a good idea of how the co-op aspect functions.

Indeed, it is hard to explain Journey with just words, as it really is quite the experience. With Journey currently pencilled in for release in 2011, you can be sure that I will be there on day one, waiting to embark on my travels once again.

Article by Justin Titus


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